Orioles Face Dilemma With Rotation
As they stand, the Baltimore Orioles will enter this season in an odd predicament. While they will not be bad enough to force a trade deadline fire sale, they are also far from assured of the postseason, and are arguably just marginally better than their 81-81 finish of 2015.
Of course, there is the chance that if a lot goes right the Orioles can secure a spot in October. In the best-case scenario, they will score a lot of runs, play good defense, and have a bullpen that consistently preserves close leads. But that is a lot to count on, especially when the team is approaching spring training with a very suspect starting rotation.
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Given that circumstance, the Orioles still looked poised to make a move either through trade or free agency, which would not only reshape 2016, but potentially the next several years. While it has long been rumored that the Orioles will not surrender the 14th overall pick in the 2016 draft, circumstances may force a different course. The possibility of the Orioles signing away that pick was raised again on Thursday night, when Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the club is still considering a deal with free agent starter Yovanni Gallardo.
Though an agreement between the Orioles and Gallardo depends on numerous factors, Rosenthal stated “the price for Gallardo could drop to a point where the O’s would believe that signing him would make sense.” Signing Gallardo would improve the rotation, but at a fairly significant long-term cost. While the Orioles would still hold five of the first 100 picks if they signed Gallardo, the slot money for the 14th pick—which has yet to be announced—would be deducted from their bonus pool, leaving them with little financial flexibility to spend on later picks. As our own Ryan Potter noted recently, the 14th spot has a mixed track record of results, but any boost to the farm system would go a long way, as the Orioles’ minor league depth is being discounted by pundits amidst injury concerns about top prospects Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey.
The possibility has been raised that the Orioles could refocus their efforts on the international free agent market, which figures to produce another strong crop of prospects this summer. In the past, the Orioles have shown a willingness to enter the fray on high-profile players—remember their efforts to land Miguel Sano—but this has not translated to aggressive spending. There is also a growing sense that many teams will up their efforts internationally this year, which could be one of the last to offer international prospects as free agents rather than through a draft system.
Considering these factors, I lean more towards the inclination of our Rob Shields, who has repeatedly suggested that the Orioles fill their rotation hole by trading for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Alex Wood. Wood lacks Gallardo’s experience, but is younger and would likely allow the team to better build for the future by keeping its draft pick and the money that comes with it.
Given those circumstances, does logic dictate that the Orioles will pass on Gallardo and instead pursue an option such as Wood? This is where it gets complicated. Remember that the Orioles of 2014 were once in this very same position. It was a squad with enough young talent and upside to make waves, but just flawed enough to fall short of their potential.
It was also in 2014 where we saw examples of the Orioles watching a free agent fall to their price range, thereby making the draft pick suddenly less of a hindrance. They gave up the 17th overall pick to agree to a late pact with Ubaldo Jimenez, which was followed shortly thereafter with the decision to forfeit the 55th selection and sign Nelson Cruz. As a result of those moves, the Orioles did not pick until the 91st overall selection. The Cruz signing could not have worked out better; the same cannot be said for Jimenez, who has had his fair share of ups and downs over the past two seasons.
The Jimenez experience is a strong component in the case for a trade, but remember that the Orioles don’t have a great track record with these moves, as their lack of farm system depth has forced them to overpay in the past. For as great as Andrew Miller was after being acquired in July 2014, the Orioles probably wish they still had Eduardo Rodriguez in the system. The same could arguably be said about Josh Hader, a prospect who is now with the Milwaukee Brewers, but was dealt to the Houston Astros in 2013 to acquire Bud Norris. That was the same year as the infamous Jake Arrieta for Scott Feldman deal with the Chicago Cubs.
It is a true paradox that the Orioles face. Either deal from an already weak system to fill the rotation, or keep their current depth but forfeit the option to greatly improve the farm system through the draft. Ideally, the Orioles will learn from those deals by showing more restraint and trading for more cost-effective players, but their history suggests that they could take a different course.
A graduate of the University of Massachusetts, and Loyola University; Spedden has previously spent time in the Washington Nationals organization as a videographer for the Hagerstown Suns. As a blogger, Spedden is an Editor / Writer for the Suns fan club. Additionally, he contributes to The Nats Blog as a prospect writer, and Ballpark Digest. For BSL, Spedden covers the Orioles Minor Leagues.